John Brown

The American Civil War, John Brown

The importance of John Brown rests in the fact that prior to his attack upon the armory at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, the southern army had been almost non-existent. However, after the attack, southerners became worried that northern agitators would stir up the black slaves who would then rise up and kill the slave owners in their sleep. Following Brown's hanging, the southern militia was formed into a very viable fighting force. This was the beginning of the Confederate Army.

John Brown was born on May 9, 1800, in Torrington, Connecticut. Brown was one of the most militant of the abolitionists. His hatred of slavery, fueled by the horrors he heard while living in a black settlement in upstate New York, led him and five of his sons to move to Kansas in 1855. He lead several raids against pro-slavery strongholds in Kansas. After the city of Lawrence was attacked by proslavery forces in 1856, Brown led a counterattack on the small village on the Pottawatomie Creek. Five men from the settlement were killed.

Brown announced in Chatham, Ontario, that he was setting up an anti-slavery stronghold in the mountains of Virginia and Maryland, from which attacks against selected targets in the southern United States could be conducted. He received support from several abolitionists, including Gerrit Smith.

On the night of October 16, 1859, Brown and twenty-one men attacked the armory at Harpers Ferry and rounded up sixty men from the area as hostages. Government forces, headed by Colonel Robert E. Lee, attacked the armory, killing ten men--two of whom were Browns sons. Brown survived the attack but was wounded. He was charged with murder and treason and was hanged on December 2, 1859. Brown's actions heightened the tension between Northern abolitionists and Southern slave owners.

Taken from Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman? by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack.

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